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Tips for Shadowing a Physician

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by philios, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. philios

    philios 2+ Year Member

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    Jan 15, 2007
    Hi there,
    I'll be shadowing a physician (general surgeon) over at the local hospital tomorrow and I was wondering if anyone had any tips for me? Things like what to do to make a good impression, what to expect, and more importantly how to go about the delicate task of asking someone who i know moderately well (but not very well) for a STELLAR letter of recommendation? Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you very much in advance!


    Also how do med schools feel about having shadowed a physician? Like is it a very valuable thing in their eyes or not so much? Thanks!
     
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  3. pennybridge

    pennybridge Banned Banned

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    Oct 13, 2006
    wear quiet shoes
     
  4. AnEyeLikeMars

    AnEyeLikeMars Member 7+ Year Member

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    You're going to be shadowing for more than one day right?

    The key is to earn a stellar LOR. It's not a delicate task...people usually enjoy mentoring and helping students out (again, assuming you've earned it)

    It's probably the best way to learn about what doctors really do. It won't really set you apart. I recommend getting additional clinical experience in which you're in the action and actually participating.
     
  5. mongrel

    mongrel Assoc. Prof. Dogsuit 5+ Year Member

    Yah, I think they see it as a form of that highly necessary thing called "clinical experience." I shadowed a few surgeons and one thing I always did (when I had the information ahead of time) was to look up and read some about the procedure they'll be performing. That way you can ask a few intelligent questions which will be good for LOR grooming AND you'll be prepared if he/she decides to throw a little pop quiz at you! One the docs I shadowed loved to do this... not sure why he got kicks out of being an MD stumping a college sophomore though...
     
  6. philios

    philios 2+ Year Member

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    Jan 15, 2007
    Thanks for the advice so far. I should also note that I frequently observe this particular doctor for about 4 hours per week during his surgeries in the mornings (sometimes I rotate to other surgeons with other specialties and cases).
     
  7. Droopy Snoopy

    Droopy Snoopy 7+ Year Member

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    If you can get some info on his cases it might help to learn a little about them. Helps you get more out of it by knowing the pertinent pathophysiology and anatomy involved in a gallbladder removal and being able to ask intelligent questions vs. another ignorant premed who periodically interrupts everybody with stuff like "So what's that green thing?"
     
  8. 63768

    63768 Guest 2+ Year Member

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    Mar 5, 2005
    shadowing is consider pretty close to clinical experience. i can't imagine everyone applying to med school has full-time clinical experience. i think if that's all you can get for now, shadowing is good stuff.

    tips for shadowing:
    1) stay out of the way. especially in the OR, find a corner or ask where you can stand and stay out of the way. that is unless the gen surg wants you to scrub in and hold fat flaps.
    2) ask a few questions but not too much.
    3) pay attention.
    4) if you know what cases are coming up, maybe find out a little bit about the anatomy or procedure. i don't think your doc will expect too much since you're just a premed.
     
  9. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    Feb 6, 2007
    Try to soak up any little observation or experience you can. For the most part a lot of what the surgeon is doing is going to go over your head and you'll be standing in the corner trying not to get in the way just watching people moving around doing things you don't understand. But be appreciate of any morsel of bit of info they throw your way and ask some general questions wher you can.
     
  10. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    Dec 3, 2005
    How crazy! Your post describes my exact situation....I have my very first surgical observation tomorrow morning! It's a craniotomy with a neurosurgeon. I'm totally nervous (a weird choice of words, I know); the surgeon is really nice but I've had nursing staff be less than....supportive of me getting "clinical exposure" in the past.

    Here's a question...how does it normally work with patient consent forms? Does the doctor normally ask permission for you? The first time I tried to do this in advance of the surgery the nursing staff wouldn't allow me to go into the neuro unit to ask the patient. I mentioned this to the surgeon's assistant, but I'm not sure if they have the signed forms yet...so I guess I may find myself getting permission at the last second tomorrow morning. It's all very weird; I hate making the doctor go out of his/her way to do this, but I also hate giving the appearance of preying on someone who's about to undergo a very serious operation.
     
  11. Cozminator

    Cozminator 2+ Year Member

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    Mar 23, 2007

    Every one of my interviews included a question "have you shadowed any physicians". I'd say that's a clear sign that they consider it to be an important experience for someone to have before starting medical school.
     
  12. AnEyeLikeMars

    AnEyeLikeMars Member 7+ Year Member

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    But not one of my interviewers ever asked that. Clinical experience is necessary, but shadowing is just one type.
     
  13. Droopy Snoopy

    Droopy Snoopy 7+ Year Member

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    The Alamo
    :thumbup:
     
  14. boodthedog

    boodthedog Members Only 2+ Year Member

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    I've heard from an admissions official that shadowing is more or less a box checked off when looking over an applicant. It's important, but won't make or break you. As far as asking permission, I've shadowed a few different doctors and they have always introduced me, usually with the vague description of "student." They also ask if it's alright for me to be there. 80% of the time it has been fine, don't be upset and be super polite when it's not. This was mostly primary care situations and I'm not sure how it will work for surgery.
     
  15. NN11

    NN11 7+ Year Member

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    Mar 9, 2006
    MY advice:

    Be on time, or even 15 minutes early.
    No one likes tardy people, it's unprofessional.
     
  16. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    Well, I'm back...it was awesome! The surgery was a full-blown "brain surgery" for tumor removal. It turns out that the nursing staff was really helpful this time- they took care of the consent form and getting me where I needed to be. Anyway, he invited me back for a spinal surgery, and I'd definitely like to do this kind of thing again. Since we're on the topic...does anyone have ideas on how to approach other surgeons about observation (e.g. orthopedics, general, etc.)? I've been trying to volunteer on the surgery floor (seems to be a good place to start), but I've had the hardest time getting in contact with the person in charge. At this point she seems to be downright ignoring my voicemails....
     
  17. Snips McCool

    Snips McCool 10+ Year Member

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    Mar 10, 2007
    You should also dress up for shadowing. Not necessarily in a suit, but nicer than jeans for sure. This is probably less important for surgical shadowing, since you'll probably be wearing scrubs most of the time, but it still can't hurt. A female friend of my brother's shadowed my dad (a radiologist) while wearing tight pink pants. He was not impressed.
     
  18. indiamacbean

    indiamacbean Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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    Just some general clues on how to do well in the OR while shadowing. First off, you should ask the doc you are shadowing:
    1.what to wear (if clinic in AM, shirt and tie or girl version if straight to the OR then try to get the proper scrubs ahead of time.)
    2. Ask if the doc knows what cases are on for tomorrow or whatever day you will be shadowing and tell her that you would like to read up ahead of time. Most important things to know in any surgery is who is the patient, what operation are they having and why are they having the operation. If you know more than this it is icing on the cake.
    3. Find out whether you are scrubbing in on the case or simply watching from the sidelines. In either case introduce yourself to everyone nurse/tech in the room tell them you are working with Dr. X and you are a pre-med here to shadow. Ask where you should stand to be most out of the way especially while they are prepping or turning over the room. If you don't know how to scrub properly ask nurse or resident to assist you. this is not intuitive and it's not like TV.
    4. Touch NOTHING in the OR unless you are told to grab/pass/hold etc. Especially, don't touch anything on the tray that the scrub nurse uses to organize instruments (Mayo tray). don't try and be helpful.
    5. Most of all relax and have a good time. surgery is awesome and fun to observe.
    6. if you are going to pass out, step directly back from the table and just sit on the ground. you will probably get a little bit of a hard time but this is a million times better than fainting into the surgical field or falling over and banging your head on a piece of equipment.
     
  19. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    Dec 3, 2005
    Lol, some girls just have no class >). You're right though...I spent 10 minutes picking out my clothes for today (black button-down shirt, khaki slacks, dress shoes) but no one even saw me....as I was rushed into the staff changing area to get my scrubs on the second I stepped out of the elevator. So if you're doing surgery I would dress with as few layers as possible (because you probably won't have a locker to store all your stuff in...). For regular volunteering I'm not actually allowed to wear scrubs. If I were shadowing a physician in his/her office I would definitely consider adding a tie to the mix...but only if I could pull it off without looking too interviewing-for-my-first-job-ish. Adding a light, casual jacket wouldn't hurt either...
     
  20. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    Based on my experience today these are all great questions....only I would try to ask this of the doctor's assistant and not the doctor him/herself. Try to ask intelligent, relevant MEDICAL questions of the doctor when appropriate, and take care of the logistical issues with his/her support staff. You might also want to consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt under your scrubs….if the doctor has you scrub up to hold something/stand close to the patient you’ll be wearing a gown that covers your sleeves anyway, and if not you’ll be standing out of the way and probably freezing your butt off! Double check the policy on this though…but I’m sure long sleeves were ok where I was observing.
     
  21. BlackSails

    BlackSails 2+ Year Member

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    The anaesthesiologist I shadowed is one of those crazy ones that goes in at 5 AM to prep for all his cases. He told me to be there by 6, and wear a shirt and slacks, despite the fact that nobody was there (I showed up at 530) and I changed into scrubs right away.

    If you dont want to ask the doc, I would wear a shirt and slacks, and if that is too formal, let him tell you so.
     
  22. Carlin

    Carlin Junior Member 10+ Year Member

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    LOL. I did this when I was shadowing once. I think I had my knees locked, because I wasn't feeling nauseous at all (It was a laproscopic surgery. There was nothing to be squeamish about!) and then I was suddenly extremely dizzy and short of breath with swimming vision. The surgeon thought it was hilarious, and the nurses were so sweet, and got me a stool to sit on for the rest of the surgery.

    I also choked on my lunch that day. An ER doctor who happened to be sitting next to me had to slap me on the back so I could cough up the rice that had gone down the wrong pipe. Quite an eventful day... :laugh:
     
  23. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    Lol, that's awful! I don't feel like anything went right today, but I'm ok with that because the doctor didn't see any of it >). I found the scrubs but I couldn't find the hats and shoe covers, then when I did find the hats there were 2 different kinds...I finally decided on one but a guy nearby pointed out a third, more "manly" type. I WOULD be the one to choose the hair net.... Luckily the nurses steered me to where I was supposed to go, because there weren't exactly signs pointing the way like in the public areas. I did my best not to look lost, but I don't think I succeeded very well. At lunch I wasn't squeamish at all, and I was really hungry, but for some reason when it came time to eat I wasn't swallowing very well. Oh well, if I can arrange a next time at least I can avoid some of these issues >).
     
  24. Felzor

    Felzor 7+ Year Member

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    Mar 14, 2007
    Sounds a lot like my experience, kypdurron5. I know I was a little dazed and confused my first time in the OR, even though I'd like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent individual. Scrubs tripped me up a little, the questions I asked weren't exactly genius, and I think I kept my hands a little too close to the operating table (until the surgeon suggested I place them behind my back).

    Don't worry--you're a pre-med student, and they know that. Or at least you should have told them that. To the patients, though, the doctors will probably refer to you simply as a "student."

    The way I understand it, nobody is judging you when it comes to shadowing, including the medical schools. (What's important is that you HAVE done it, not the WAY you do it.) The only exception is if you want a LOR from the doctor you are shadowing, which to me is an absolutely absurd and preposterous idea. Why you want somebody you've only known for a few weeks/days, under generally stressful and impersonal circumstances, to write you a recommendation letter?
     
  25. kypdurron5

    kypdurron5 10+ Year Member

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    This is another topic altogether. During small-talk, my surgeon said "Is it too late for us [our practice] to write LORs for you?" I said "It's never too late," but I can't help but wonder what he would write in such a letter. He doesn't even know me. Same thing with my PCP- he offered to do an LOR, but can he really say anything about seeing me once a year besides "this applicant is in excellent health." >) Do doctors lie or heavily exaggerate when they write these letters, or perhaps just be ambiguous, or maybe just go off of a pre-med resume and infer personality traits?
     
  26. BlackSails

    BlackSails 2+ Year Member

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    Apr 4, 2007
    It could also be that they know you better than you think
     

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